OJO Fest '23
Olympic Park, Montreal, CA
J’ai oublié – I forgot. I didn’t mean to, obviously, but I couldn’t help it. It was as if every car lined up at the terminal, those compact vehicles with Je me souviens emblazoned on the license plate, stole a memory from me. As if the airplane I flew in on was in fact an oubliette, and somehow I’d escaped and found myself in Montréal. Where’s my wallet? Back pocket. No, it’s in my bag. With my passport? I rummage around and find the wallet but no passport. Now the passport’s in my front pocket. What’s in the other? Why is my debit card floating around solo? Think, Keenan. I appropriate the items to their rightful positions (everything in the bag, nothing in my pockets) and start from scratch:
Montréal doesn’t do Lyft, so I need to download Uber. Uber needs me to verify my number. I don’t have an international plan; I need to roam. I need sleep and water but I keep forgetting. Asghar arrives and crams my board bag in his Jetta. Asghar drives Uber but does not like it; he wishes he could still drive taxi. He does not like capitalism.
“Shit man, me either.” I slide him a twenty. Another oublié: Andrew Jackson won’t do much for Asghar here in Québec.
How can I remember? How can I souviens? Think, Keenan – PENSE! Shake the workweek. Breathe the vibrantly glum air. You’re here for a reason. I know, I know – je sais! – but before I can do anything about it, the hotel bed lures me in. I’m swiftly devoured by slumber.
Language, though designed for simple communication, can actually complicate things. I dream that instead of knowing barely any French, I know none. Things become easier. Unfortunately for me (and for those readers without any bilingual inklings), the farcical Frenglish I know was compelled to fall out often and at random. I apologize if you find yourself confused, but if you think this is confusing, you should go to French-speaking Canada and see how well you fair.
Sleep sweeps some dust from the ridges in my bubble-gum pink brain; I begin souvien-ing in the morning.
I remember that it’s hard to remember all by yourself. Friends are exceptional at obliterating the oublié. Mike [Rav] and Parker [Zoom] did just that for me. In an instant we were at the Olympic Stadium, in another we were flying. Flying is very helpful when it comes to souvien-ing; Fly and possibly more importantly watch others fly but definitely most importantly flying yourself. Let others inspire you to soar, and celebrate the soaring with others. Celebrate with laughter. Celebrate with a free public snowboarding facility. Remember? We’re flying because Dillon flew. And like flying, smiling is a souvien saver, and we’re smiling because Dillon smiles.
Some hundred – deux, trois cent – smiles help me souviens. Backflipping smiles, 360ing smiles, box sliding smiles, indy smiles, Japan smiles, first turn smiles, millionth boardslide smiles, shifty smiles, disco smiles, snowskate smiles, bail smiles, liberated smiles, 270 smiles, pizza smiles, kid smiles, grown smiles, nervous smiles, Corona smiles, lipslide smiles, camera smiles and smiles behind cameras, gap smiles, familial smiles, foreign smiles, fast smiles, and physically unbelievably large smiles - Olympic sized smiles!
Smiling for Dillon, remembering.
And trying. Fate fortunes the tryers, the essayeurs. Fortunate in laughter and companionship and conversation. Trying places you in the moment, and it’s moments like these that count. When the license plate reads Je me souviens, it means I remember the past, which is why I’ll be present, so I may shape a better future. Trying is the middle part. Trying is being squished by something new and seeing if you can’t wiggle your way through it. I didn’t see a single person not trying. Pas personne. That’s because Dillon tried and we all want to be more like Dillon.
Remember to celebrate trying, too. The celebration is critical to the past and it encourages the future. We celebrate flying and trying. We celebrate in an embrace and continue snowboarding – one more hike up. We laugh the whole way down and decide to hike up one more time. The entire day passes that way. Each moment rejoiced. We must celebrate the festival as a whole. Gio [Vacca] spares nothing in lieu of this; the sun falls and we’re welcomed to a shadowy den of a lounge. Seats are found and food starts appearing. We celebrate with leeks and tartar and la vache and cauliflower fissured into a moat of oily magma – intensely orange. We cool off with Aperol Spritz and intimate proximity. We celebrate under candlelight. We do so encouraged by Dillon, in an effort to keep up with him.
Say your prayers. Not on god but on your friends. They’re more important.
The following morning comes quickly. My parents are driving up from Vermont to see me. I run a cold shower to freshen up. The water drives a crack in my own oublié-fulness from just a few hours prior. Overarching camaraderie outside in the flurried streets, quantum closeness inside Apt 200. Drake sounds even better in Canada. A glowing bottle of Goose, bobbling like a buoy in an ocean of puffy jackets and jubilance.
Je me souviens - I dry off, dress, and head outside to wait for them. They arrive and we embrace on the Sunday morning street. My dad remarks about the music. I hadn’t noticed it but sure enough music comes from somewhere. Where? Here I am thinking that this place is stern. Our people were spirited but I assumed that was born in the face of the winter’s gloom; the average attitude of the city, I gathered, was stern. However, hearing the music brought with it a dynamic realization. Under grey skies, murky roads with mute patrons patrolling them, droll in all black, also have music projecting on them. Teen temps invite flurries yet you sweat. The same person who makes the nighttime sidewalk impassable for you now stands behind you in line at the hamburger spot – in the line that you created because your stupid American debit card is almost as stupid as you are – and you “je m’excuse,” and they “pas de problème,” solemnly, yes, but without any hostility. Two minutes pass and everything is fine. The hamburger is delicious but the French fries blow. Go figure.
Before long, three cups of Bonjour Canada are drained and I’ve got a flight to catch. They drop me off at the airport. I run some math: my total travel time was in the ballpark of 24 hours, and I was technically in Montréal for less than a day and a half. My parents drove two and a half hours so we could hug on each other and laugh with each other for two and a half hours, only to drive two and a half hours back. I drew a parallel with post-Spritz-induced sensitivity: nothing out-prioritizes family. Do the illogical and the fantastic for them. Build snowboard parks for them. Invite the world. Turn the music up for them. Try for them, drive for them, fly for them. They are the ones that make you fearless; they make your heart oubliez fear.
We have Dillon to thank for that. The young man put a smile on an entire city, and is actively encouraging our whole community to be better.
Je me souviens. We all do.
Merci times a million to the Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation, Vans and Vans Canada, Seen Snowboarding, and the Parc Olympique.
Photography by: Oli Gagnon, Keenan Faulkner-Cawley, and Jon Stark